1. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
For me, and many other kids in England, To Kill a Mockingbird was a GCSE English Literature text… which basically meant that you over read every chapter in depth and over analysed two specific quotations:-
-‘It’s a sin to kill a Mockingbird”
-“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.’
The second quotation always grossed me out a bit… if I took it literally rather than metaphorically!
Whilst this novel may initially appear to be a story about Scout (the first person narrator) growing up, there is so much more to it than what initially meets the eye. There are major issues, which are intertwined and are integral to the main narrative, including:
- Social Inequality
Whilst I was initially forced to read this book… it is one that I fell in love with and have read on numerous occasions since. This book introduced me to American history, racial issues and the importance of a moral education. This is a book everyone should read and take lessons from.
2. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald,
This is another book that I had to read (for my Alevel this time) and adored! Whilst on the surface it is a love story, Fitzgerald delves into less romantic topics. For example, the decline and unobtainable nature of the American Dream is prevalent throughout and the fascinating dynamic between new and old money is explored! Furthermore, despite being known for lavish and decadent parties, the 1920s is presented as an era of decay, corruption and greed. This is only a short story but it is rich with symbolism, imagery and reoccurring themes. I love it.
3. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
My bent and worn copy of the Hobbit is from my Mum so this book has been read a quite a few times (From the look of it, I think it has been read out in the sun a lot too).
I first picked this book up when I was nine but I found the copious amounts of description too much for my nine year old brain to handle. After just a few pages in, I put the book down and left it in my book shelf to collect dust.
At the age of fifteen, I gave Tolkien another go and the experience was completely different. I was instantly submerged into Middle Earth and the exciting adventures of Bilbo. The Hobbit is an unforgettable tale and it is no surprise that it has been made into a film. However, I am one of those annoying people who will always tell you to read the book before you see the film. You need to imagine the Shire, the Lonely Mountain and the Iron Hills for yourself, before you see them on the screen.
This is a book that has been loved by mother and then daughter and I think it will continue to be a story passed down through the generations.
4. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
If you love The Hobbit then you will be dying to read The Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings is a trilogy that follows on from The Hobbit and it is full with just as much adventure, thrill and excitement.
Rather than receiving the books from my Mum, the trilogy was given to me by my nan. All three books have been combined into this beautiful, old fashioned, red leather book. I think I am just as obsessed with the case of the book as I am with the stories themselves.
5.Animal Farm, George Orwell
At the same time as giving me The Lord of the Rings, my Nan also gave me George Orwell’s book; which included Animal Farm as well as 1984.
For example, the famous quotations:
“all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’
Introduced me to the ways in which language can be used as an instrument of abusive power (which is also seen in 1984).
The book also tackles topics such as:
- Class structures and tyranny
- The flaws in the Soviet Unions socialist ideals- Communism
This is another book which leaves many topics playing upon your mind, even after you have finished the last page.
6. 1984, George Orwell
My copy of 1984 is combined with Animal Farm, so it resulted in two excellent consecutive reads!
In Oceania everything, from the way you sleep, eat, work and even what you say, is controlled. The past has been rewritten and there ceased to be any real truth. What has always stuck in my memory is the chilling quotation:
‘War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength’
This book scared me a little bit. Not in the horror kinda way… more of an OMG, this totalitarian dystopia is so relevant to today… I am not saying that todays state is as controlling as Big Brother (the personification of the state of Oceania) but their are some similarities that can be drawn and lessons to be learnt. I think you should treat 1984 as a warning against totalitarianism.
7. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
If 1948 was not cynical enough for you, then you better get your hands on The Handmaid’s Tale. The Republic of Gilead is another dystopia but it is one in which the repressive state forces fertile women to have one sole function- to breed. A womens body is a political instrument or a vessel for carrying babies. The women themselves are not valued. Therefore, sexual themes such as rape and sexual violence are covered. Gilled is also a theocracy (there is no divide between religion and the state- they are one). Therefore the tale is littered with biblical references and religious terminology. This book is incredible and I love that it is laced with so much irony. You must give it a read!
8. Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
This book will make you cry. I do not just mean watery eyes. I mean cry- REALLY CRY! It is the heart breaking tale of unlikely friendships (due to class differences) against the horrific backdrop of conflicts in Afghanistan! Truly wonderful, powerful and emotive book. Worth a read, but remember to have tissues at hand
9. Kensuke’s Kingdom, Michael Morpurgo
This is a less pessimistic and sad book, even though a child is washed up on an Island in the Pacific. The story is about the exciting adventures of Michael on the island, with Kensuke- both his captor and his saviour . It is an easy and enjoyable read (even if it does bring tears to my eyes). I think this is classified as a children’s book and I did read it as a child, but I still enjoy it now. So you should give it a go.
10. Bever Towers, Nigel Hinton
My Mum is a primary school teacher and it is therefore her job to have fantastic story telling voices (it is part of the job role)! When I was really young, about 6 or 7, she used to read me a few pages of Bever Towers every night and give each character a different voice. I used to close my eyes and imagine the adventures unfolding.With Philip squealing as he flew away on his Kite and Oyin, the wicked witch, cackling as she captured the animals. Whilst my Mum no longer reads to me in funny, squeaky voices, I still hear her voices when I read it in my head. I have a sentimental attachment to this book but I still think it is a book everyone should read.
Having finished this list, I have become aware that I read a lot of these books at school. Yet I do feel as though they are books that everyone should give a go. They might not be everyones cup of tea. However, I feel as though they are classics, or at least books that have left a lasting impression in my memory.
Love Soph xxx